A week after the residents of General Santos City celebrated their annual Tuna Festival 2019, I visited the city formerly known as Municipality of Buayan in Region 12 last Saturday, my first time to visit the place and my first out-of-town trip after my recent four-month US vacation.
With Jin Lorenz on the steering wheel, we reached Gensan after three hours on well-paved highways from Davao City all the way to our 145-kilometer destination with a travelling speed of 70 to 100 kilometers per hour. Yes, that’s how fast my youngest son drives our car now.
We only slowed down when we passed the two police checkpoints approaching Astorga in Sta. Cruz and a checkpoint while entering General Santos City.
While navigating the uphill-zigzag side of Malungon overlooking Malita, Davao del Sur, I saw myself in the same area 60 years ago when only a single file of vehicles can pass through the unpaved road while a long line of vehicles on the other side were waiting for the last vehicle to pass before they can proceed.
Yes, before I joined the TIMES, I also worked as casual timekeeper of the Department of Public Works then doing road construction in that part of Region 12. Lolo Jose Caraos, the father of the late Ate Fina (Josefina C. San Pedro) was my immediate boss then.
I stayed with the highwaymen camp near the house of Sulop Mayor Cesar dela Victoria at Lower Matanao for more than two months until I resigned from my job and joined the TIMES for I wanted to finish my schooling in Davao City.
Except for that almost half-a-kilometer man-sized wall made of bricks on one side of the highway, the well-paved roads and highways all the way from Davao City to Malungon and General Santos City are almost 100 percent done.
Now I know that the infrastructure project of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program of the Duterte administration is really working in this part of Mindanao. Congratulations, Mr. President!
When my daughter Tala from US learned that I was visiting the Tuna Country for the first time during the weekend, she jokingly told me: “Pa, eat-all-you-can, sashimi, then.”
When I was in the US, Tala noticed my love for eating the Japanese sashimi, that’s why there was no day that we were not at a Japanese resto for this.
But believe you me, the well-known Rachel’s Tuna Grill and seafood resto in Gensan (the Tuna capital of the Philippines) where we had our hearty lunch upon arrival was not serving sashimi. And the only response I received when I asked was “Pag wala sa menu, wala kami, Sir.”
Anyway, the seafoods we ordered consisting of malasugui prepared with sweet and sour, pritong tilapia, calamares (squid), adobong bagaybay (male fish egg), lato (seaweed) and malasugui soup with rice were all delicious and at least substituted to my hunger for not having sashimi in that meal.
And believe you me again, that hearty meal cost the four of us (my eldest son Jojo and apo, Jacob) no less than six hundred pesos only. Wow, ang mura!
But when we dropped by the old Dadiangas public market for prawn and tuna, we thought that we were buying in Bankerohan market. The price is similar. The only consolation is that while in Gensan the fish is always fresh, in Bankerohan most of the fish is already ‘bilasa’.
Aside from the yearly Tuna Festival celebrated every first week of September, the city also has the Kalilangan every month of February. “Kalilangan” means festival, festivity or jubilation. It is a social gathering marked by exchanging of amenities among traditional leaders, elders, allies and subordinates in varying tones. In a broader perspective, Kalilangan projects a positive and dynamic meaning for it engulfs the artistic, humane and altruistic aspects of social interaction that takes place in any occasion or celebration. Kalilangan is a noble tradition.
Due to limited time we had in the city, I was not able to see (my real purpose of the trip) the famous Gensan fish-port in Lagao where tons of fresh tuna are being loaded and unloaded for export around the world. That’s why we settled at the old public market instead where species of seafoods from this fish-port are being marketed.
If not for the heavy traffic we encountered while entering Toril, our driving back home in the afternoon would have been lesser by an hour from the three hours we had earlier in going to Gensan.
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